In the Asian Games, the Indian women’s 4x400m relay team is like the American team in the Olympics. The gold is virtually taken for granted.
With only M.R. Poovamma as the experienced runner, and Hima Das leading from the front, the quartet won its fifth successive gold.
Interacting with the media on her return, the 28-year-old Poovamma, who was part of the team that won the gold in the last edition at Incheon in 2014, said the potential of the current team could take it beyond the Asian Games.
“Everyone ran a perfect race. The baton exchanges were flawless. It was a big challenge to beat Bahrain, but we did it. A medal is fine for any other event, but not for the women’s relay team. We are used to gold. Anything less would have been treated as a failure,” said Poovamma.
The whole package was masterminded by 72-year-old coach Galina Burakhina, who sprang a surprise by putting the best runner, Hima, up front and gave the responsibility of anchoring to first-time international V.K. Vismaya.
“Coach Galina had taken the national federation into confidence, and had its approval. We knew about the plan only on the morning of the race. Hima gave us a big lead. I improved on it and the other two runners had to be at their best, which they did, not thinking about the gold but focusing purely on the run,” said Poovamma, who was thrilled with the time of 3:28.72s.
This was some achievement, as Bahrain was anchored by World championship silver medallist, 20-year-old Salwa Naser, who won three golds in Jakarta, including the 400m.
“I was so tense. I really ran hard in the last 50 metres, as I knew Salwa’s abilities.
“She has a personal best of 49.08s for the 400m. It was joy when I crossed the line,” recalled Vismaya, whose 52.2 clinched it, thanks to the handy lead in advance, sustained by Saritaben Gayakwad in the third leg.
“My first international medal is gold, and it has given me confidence,” said Vismaya.